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Old Globe Program Spotlights City Heights’s Stories Of Love And Loss

In an intimate rehearsal space at The Old Globe Theater, City Heights artist Soroya Rowley sings an original tune.

"I am fighting for my life," Rowley croons, while strumming her guitar.

The original melody is hers, but the lyrics, the love and the loss are not.

“The story was about this lovely man Balthazar who is still with us and his dear friend who passed away due to cancer," the performance artist said. "He wrote a letter from her perspective that was basically a goodbye letter to her friends and family, and so that’s what I used to write the song.”

Rowley is rehearsing for her upcoming performance as part of "The Living Altar," a production of The Old Globe's Community Voices program. It connects performance artists with San Diego residents to translate their experiences from life to stage.

The Old Globe's teaching artist Katie Harroff helped launch Community Voices.

Free performance of 'Living Altar'

When: Saturday, Jan. 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Plaza at The Old Globe's Conrad Prebys Theatre Center

The free performance is part of the Globe's 4th Annual Powers New Voices Festival that includes a DJ, raffle and the presentation of a new American play.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

“It is a program where we bring play writing skills to different communities that may never really have access to play writing workshops or different kinds of theater classes,” said Harroff, who also has her own nonprofit theater company with Rowley.

Late last year, artists connected with City Heights residents during preparations for Dia de Los Muertos, a Latin American tradition that calls for people to honor and celebrate their departed loved ones by creating an altar.

Harroff said she and fellow artists asked the altar-creators to describe the person they were honoring.

“We gathered all of those stories and a collection of six San Diego artists from all over the place, including City Heights, developed short pieces inspired by the stories of the loved ones that have passed," she said.

The performance called the "Living Altar," includes Rowley’s bilingual song, a dance tribute to grandmothers, a theatrical piece, a comedic act, a spoken word presentation and an additional dance performance. The series was originally performed in City Heights last fall and is coming to Balboa Park for an encore performance.

Rowley said she was a little nervous about performing another's story at the initial show, but in the end it was well-received.

“He was crying and he was just thanking me. And I was so touched because it’s very scary to be presenting someone’s story to them, something that matters a lot to them and to have them to react positively is the most you could hope for,” she said.

For the next installment of the Old Globe's Community Voices program, Harroff said she hopes to work with refugees.

Photo caption: City Heights artist Soroya Rowley sings along as she plays a song on her guit...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

City Heights artist Soroya Rowley sings along as she plays a song on her guitar, Jan. 13, 2017.

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